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Interview: Senator Bill Cassidy on LSU Title IX probe

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BATON ROUGE - Senator Bill Cassidy joined WBRZ's morning show to address several topics including his decision to vote in support of impeaching former President Trump, delays in the Comite River Diversion Project, and a local university's mishandling of alleged cases of sexual misconduct and violence against women.

The investigation into the university, currently dominating headlines across the state, also became the central focus of Cassidy's Wednesday (March 30) interview with WBRZ. 

With a recent probe into Louisiana State University's mishandling of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse claims, state lawmakers are demanding more answers from the University as to why the allegations of victims were often dismissed and their accused attackers were allowed to continue on with their college studies without penalty. 

According to a recent USA Today report, "In more than half the Title IX cases referred to him for punishment over the past four school years, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Advocacy and Accountability Jonathan Sanders imposed sanctions that allowed guilty students to continue their coursework uninterrupted, instead of opting for more severe penalties, such as suspension or expulsion. During that time, Sanders expelled just one student."

In addition to this, during a Friday, March 26 hearing, a 74-year-old woman named Gloria Scott told the state Senate Select Committee on Women and Children that in 2017, when she told LSU's Head Football Coach, Ed Orgeron that one of his football players, Derrius Guice, sexually harassed her while she was working security at the Superdome during a game, Orgeron denied her request to bench the accused athlete.

Orgeron did not publicly speak out about Scott's testimony until Tuesday (March 30), stating, in an ESPN radio interview, that he couldn't recall having an in-person conversation with Scott about the incident. 

But after listening to Scott's tearful testimony, several lawmakers demanded that Orgeron testify in an upcoming hearing. 

Senator Cassidy addressed the LSU Title IX probe during his interview with 2une In's Brandi B. Harris and John Pastorek.

When asked if more than people at LSU should be fired from their roles because of the mishandling of sexual assault and harassment cases, Cassidy, a Republican and professional physician who was initially elected to his role as Senator in 2014, said, "It should rise to the top to the person who gave that order. I suspect there's going to be more learned and at that point, we're going to have a fuller conversation. But ultimately this should not be tolerated. It should not be tolerated at the top and that message should be sent to the bottom, and we shouldn't be having this conversation at all." 

During the interview, Harris mentioned Scott's sexual harassment claim against Guice and her allegations that Coach Orgeron did not handle her claim properly.

Harris asked Cassidy if Orgeron should be forced to testify, and Cassidy replied, "I'll leave that to the Committee. But clearly it starts at the top and it comes to the bottom. There's also the understanding, though, that he is dealing with 18 and 19 year old's, and believe it or not sometimes they need to be coached not just on the field, but in life. So, I'm also willing to say, if you've got a 19 year old who says things that are inappropriate- we've all been 19 right? I know he's said some things inappropriate when he was 19. And so, I think there has to be a little bit of an understanding but at the same time that understanding has to bring in the values that those young men and women will need for the rest of their life." 

Harris went on to mention that a number of female students and staff at LSU feel the college hired Husch Blackwell to investigate its mishandling of sexual misconduct cases only for the purpose of covering up the university's blunders. 

She asked Cassidy for his thoughts on this and the Senator replied, "If there was a cover up, that should in of itself be a source of penalty. Again, it's not to be tolerated and its not to be swept under the rug as well, and folks are right to be outraged."

Pastorek moved to another topic, mentioning the siege at the Capitol and Cassidy's ensuing choice to vote in support of impeaching then-President Donald Trump.

Pastorek asked Cassidy if, considering the backlash he received for his vote, he could change his vote on the matter, would he?

Cassidy replied, "Not at all." 

He went on to say, "I took an oath to support and defend the constitution of the United States , I take that seriously. And my complete understanding of that case was, 'this is the vote to support and defend the constitution of the United States.'"  

In moving on to the topic of the Comite River Diversion Canal and a year-long delay in its construction, Cassidy said, "Those big projects are complicated and they're subject to delay. Sometimes it's like pushing an elephant, right? You can get the elephant to move, but it takes a heck of a lot of pushing and they still move at their own pace."

"So, it's something we'll look at to push, push, push," Cassidy continued. "But there are just some things that are difficult to overcome. The important thing is after decades its finally moving forward and that momentum will continue, even if it is delayed."

In a recent meeting, officials said the Comite River Diversion Project is likely to be completed by December 2022.


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